Definitive List of DC’s Dive Bars

The Big Hunt - one of DC's dives
The Big Hunt – one of DC’s dives

The topic of DC’s dive bars often leads to lively debate-just see the comment section of Thrillist’s list of top DC dives. Many self-proclaimed dives have sprouted up throughout town in recent years, a phenomenon detailed in a great piece in the Washington City Paper in August 2014, leading to the term “thrive bar“,as well a persuasive DCist argument that the DC dive bar is dead. This was followed up by the Washington Post’s list of top true dives in 2017

To settle this once and for all (ok, not really), Barred in DC’s definitive list of DC’s dive bars is here (with apologies to many Ethiopian and Hispanic spots that might fit the bill). Definitions of dive bars abound-though this list eschews any particular definition and instead tracks public perception of whether a bar is a dive or not. That being said, in italics underneath each bar’s name, reasons why a particular spot really isn’t a dive are included, and in reality, most of these would be called just a neighborhood tavern in most cities not named DC (for example, just assume that most if not all of these spots have a yuppie/hipster/insert-reference-to-white-college-educated-DC-crowd).

Other bars that are “divey” in certain ways  but not full-blown dives are also listed (and are eligible for moving to the dive category by popular acclaim or Twitter poll), along with a few bars that someone on the Internet amazingly once called a dive. Since many feel age makes a difference (though only 20% of our Twitter followers think so), the year of opening is included to help draw your own conclusion. Finally, interesting stories about many of the bars in the list are linked. Thoughts on the list? Tweet at @barredindc or post in the comments.

Old-School

  • Raven Grill (Mount Pleasant) – 1935
    • dunno, too many hipsters and bros on weekends?
  • Tune Inn (Capitol Hill) – 1947
    • lots of Guy Fieri tourists and families, recently rebuilt
  • Post Pub (Downtown) – late 1950s / current name 1974 / current owner since 1976
  • Dan’s Cafe (Adams Morgan) – 1965
    • has a bouncer/line, young crowd on weekends, not open 4 days a week, only opens at 9p
    • Twitter poll results
  • Trio’s Fox and Hounds (Dupont) – 1967 / current owner 2013
    • large TVs, cleaned up in recent years, big patio
  • Chuck and Billy’s (ColHi/Pleasant Plains) – late 1960s
    • haven’t been yet
  • Stan’s Restaurant (Downtown) – 1970s / current owner since 90s
    • sort of more loungey than divey, in business district
  • Kelly’s Irish Times (Capitol Hill) – 1978
    • Irish bar, too many kickballers, business district, big patio
  • The Bottom Line (Downtown) – 1979
    • business district, corporate-ish crowd
  • The Fireplace (Dupont) – 1990
    • haven’t been yet, DJs/VJs?
  • The Big Hunt (Dupont) -1993
    • beer is too good, elevated patio, young crowd on weekends, doesn’t open til 4p on weekdays, lots of fun events
    • Twitter poll
  • Player’s Lounge (Congress Heights) – 1972 (renamed 1994)
    • haven’t been yet, but seems like a definite dive, it was formerly a strip club for godsakes
  • Harry’s (Downtown) – 1994
    • touristy, lots of natural light, business district
  • Recessions (Dupont) – 1996/1997
    • young crowd on weekends, in business district, hotel
  • Velvet Lounge (U Street) – 1997
    • live music spot
  • Charlie’s Bar and Grill (Takoma) – ??
    • never been
  • The Meeting Place (Dupont) – ??
    • never been, in business district

The New DC Dive

  • Wonderland Ballroom (Columbia Heights) – 2004
    • dance club, DJs, not open til 4 or 5p on weekdays
  • Trusty’s (Capitol Hill / Potomac Ave) – 2005
    • kitschy with mason jars for beer and schoolbus bar upstairs, brunch, not open til 4p on weekdays
  • Solly’s (U Street) – 2006
    • brunch, lots of music programming
  • Red Derby (Columbia Heights) – 2007
    • Fancy cocktails, brunch & decent food, roof deck
    • Twitter poll
  • The Pug (H Street) – 2007
    • good beer, hipstery upscale vending machine, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys
  • Codmother (U Street) – 2011
    • too crowded and dancey sometimes, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys
  • The Pinch (ColHi) – 2012
    • food too good, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys, live music focus in basement
  • Showtime Lounge (Bloomingdale) – 2013
    • DJs & dancing
  • Bravo Bar (ColHi/Pleasant Plains) – 2014
  • Ivy & Coney (Shaw) – 2014
    • roof deck, doesn’t open til 4p on wkdys
  • Lyman’s Tavern (ColHi) – 2014
    • good food and beer

Divey but not a Dive [Can be convinced/Twitter Poll’d to move these up; Not Exhaustive]

  • Downtown/Foggy Bottom/Georgetown: The Exchange (1973), Mr. Smith’s of Washington (in old Chadwick’s) (2015)
  • Dupont: Sign of the Whale (1981), Larry’s Lounge (1992), Lucky Bar (1997), Bier Baron (2010)
  • Adams Morgan: Bedrock Billiards (1992), Madam’s Organ (1992; current location 1997) The Blaguard (2008), Shenanigans (2012)
  • Logan Circle/ U Street: Velvet Lounge (1997), DC9 (2004), Stoney’s (2006), Dodge City (2010), Black Whiskey (2013)
  • Cleveland Park – Atomic Billiards (1993), Nanny O’Brien’s (mid-90s)
  • Capitol Hill – Tunnicliff’s Tavern (1980), Capitol Lounge (90s), Billy Goat Tavern (2005), Hamilton’s Bar and Grill (2006)
  • H Street – Jimmy Valentine’s (2007), Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (2009)
  • Petworth/ParkView/Columbia Heights – Looking Glass Lounge (2008), DC Reynolds (2012)
  • Chinatown/Penn Quarter: Irish Channel (??), Rocket Bar (2007), Jackpot (2015)
  • NE DC: The Dew Drop Inn (2015)

Definitely Not a Dive Bar Though Someone on the Internet Said They Were: A&D, Board Room, American Ice, Pop’s Sea Bar

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